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How Tenants May Deal with Challenging Landlords

Recently we discussed the case of the challenging tenant and gave discussed how landlords can deal with this type of situation. The flipside of course, is the less than desirable landlord. Although challenging landlords may be fewer than challenging tenants, dealing with the former is no easier than dealing with the latter. In fact, overly demanding landlords can sometimes be even more of a nuisance than tenants, mainly because landlords come into the situation with a substantial level of power. Most tenants simply do not have the resources necessary to properly and smoothly handle an irrational landlord. Hopefully, this article can provide a good starting point for tenants in this way. 

Acquire the Service & Deduct Cost

What does a “challenging landlord” look like? In many cases, irresponsibility on the part of landlords manifests in the form of failing to provide essential services, such as heat, electricity, hot water, basic safety, and so forth. If a landlord does behave irresponsibly in this way, many tenants panic and assume that they have no options. However, the truth is that tenants have several options to rectify this type of behavior. One way to rectify things is to simply acquire whatever essential service is lacking and then deduct the cost from future rent. If, for instance, the landlord fails to repair a broken toilet, and the repair costs $500, a tenant can simply pay for the repair and then deduct $500 from next month’s rent payment. Notice and opportunity to fix the problem must be given before a tenant may use this remedy, but if the problem is not fixed within a reasonable amount of time, this is a viable option.

Arrange for Substitute Housing in the Case of Nonperformance

Depending on the situation, there may be cases in which a tenant cannot simply acquire the necessary service independently. In such cases, tenants may provide written notice of the deficiency to the landlord so that the urgency of the matter is understood. If the landlord fails to rectify the situation, tenants may be allowed to obtain alternative housing until the problem is fixed. This is an extreme remedy and one that is only justified where the rented dwelling is temporarily uninhabitable. Obviously, tenants are not required to pay rent for days spent in alternative housing.

Terminate Lease & Sue for Monetary Relief

There may also be cases in which a landlord purposely withholds essential services from tenants. In these situations, tenants have the ability to terminate the lease altogether, and even file a lawsuit against the landlord to recover damages of up to two months of rent. If the tenant incurs specific damages as a result of the willful failure to supply the service, the tenant can sue and recover up to twice the actual damages sustained. The maximum amount which can be recovered is the greater of these 2 amounts. For reference, these remedies derive from Section 47a-13 of the Connecticut General Statutes.

Terminate the Lease for Other Repairs

Aside from essential services, tenants can also terminate the lease and then procure other housing if landlords fail to make other repairs and perform maintenance. However, in the case of a “non-essential” repair or maintenance task, the procedure is a bit different. First, the tenant needs to provide the landlord with a 15 day notice which indicates which type of repair or maintenance needs to take place. If the repair or maintenance doesn’t occur within the 15 day period, then the tenant is legally allowed to terminate the lease, withhold all future rent and obtain alternative housing arrangements. 

If the landlord complies and makes the repair within the 15 day period, but then fails to perform the same repair or maintenance task within the next 6 months, the tenant can then provide a 14 day “termination notice” to the landlord. This means that the tenant can simply terminate the lease after the 14 day period, regardless of whether the repair is made or not. 

Contact the Apex Law Firm for Additional Information

Dealing with an irresponsible landlord is no picnic. In fact, as mentioned, in many cases it can be even more troubling than dealing with a challenging tenant. But, if this situation does arise, it is always best to consult with an attorney experienced in housing law before taking action to ensure you understand the law and your options. For more information, call Apex Law Firm today at 860-900-0900.

How to Deal with a Challenging Tenant in Connecticut

It’s something that every landlord has stressed about: tenants who end up creating enormous stress through nonpayment, noise violations, property damage, or some combination of these things. In fact, stories of less-than-perfect tenants can sometimes be so harsh that would-be landlords are often deterred from even getting started as rental owners. Some level of trepidation in this area makes sense; a bad tenant can definitely cause serious stress, and can even lead landlords into severe financial hardship.

Every landlord wants to know: if one of these scenarios arises, what should I do? In this post, we will discuss how landlords can deal with a challenging tenant. Even if you deal with things perfectly on your end, a bad tenant can still create quite a bit of drama. But if you follow these general principles, you should be able to minimize the damage in most cases.

Violations

Lease violations can take many different forms; everything ultimately depends on the precise content of your agreement. Lease agreements typically include requirements on noise levels, property alteration, number of occupants, and so forth. It’s not uncommon to have a tenant violate one or more terms of the lease. In these situations, you have remedies.

If your tenant has violated the lease, you must give that tenant an opportunity to correct the problem before seeking an eviction. You need to give the tenant a 15 day written notice, and if the tenant hasn’t corrected the behavior during this window, then you may move forward with the eviction process.

Nonpayment

When a tenant fails to pay a portion or all of his or her rent, this can be even more frustrating than lease violations. Many Connecticut landlords depend on rental income to pay fixed expenses, and a nonpaying tenant can quickly become a serious problem. Tenants in Connecticut have a 9 day grace period to pay rent. This means that, after this grace period, landlords may move forward with the eviction process and issue the 3 day notice to quit. If the tenant fails to move out after the third day, summary process may then be commenced.

Evictions are always messy, and in some cases they can set you back financially in a substantial way. Before moving forward with the eviction process, it may be in your best interest to approach your tenant gently and attempt to resolve the matter informally. This can be done by establishing a payment plan, or by allowing your tenant to perform maintenance work for a discount, or finding some other arrangement. If you are unable to settle the matter through an alternative arrangement, then you should move forward with the eviction process. As mentioned, this involves posting a 3 day notice to quit after the expiration of the grace period, and then obtaining a court order through the normal channels. 

Remember to Avoid “Self-Help”

Whatever you do, be sure that to avoid taking any sort of “self-help” actions. As you may recall from our previous discussions, self-help actions refer to any attempts to remove the tenant (or forcibly encourage the tenant to leave) independently without utilizing the proper eviction procedure. This is heavily frowned upon here in Connecticut, and doing so can even jeopardize your eviction. 

Contact the Apex Law Firm for Additional Information

Challenging tenants are just that…challenging. The key, however, is to remain calm and then exhaust all attempts to rectify the situation in a straightforward, financially prudent way. Then, move forward with an eviction if you have no other remedy. If you’d like additional information, reach out to the Apex Law Firm today.